Andris Nelsons and John Williams conduct Beethoven, John Williams and Bartók featuring Anne-Sophie Mutter, violin
Led by both Music Director Andris Nelsons and Boston Pops Conductor Laureate John Williams, the BSO presents a special pair of concerts to welcome back live audiences to Symphony Hall after a nearly 20-month absence. Opening the concert, Mr. Nelsons leads Beethoven’s Consecration of the House Overture, the first work ever performed by the BSO in 1881. Mr. Williams then takes the podium for the first Boston performances of his own Violin Concerto No. 2, written for superstar violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, which she premiered at Tanglewood in 2021. Completing the program is Bartók’s uniquely dramatic Concerto for Orchestra, one of the BSO’s most famous commissions, originally premiered by Serge Koussevitzky in 1944.
In March 2020, the BSO performed what would prove to be the last live performance in front of an audience at Symphony Hall for over a year. While we continued to share our music virtually, and then throughout the neighborhoods of Boston and at our summer home at Tanglewood, we are thrilled to finally reconnect with our Symphony Hall audiences this fall.
It is our pleasure to invite you to a free celebration concert on Sunday, October 3 at 3pm. Concert for Our City: Reunited at Symphony Hall will feature the BSO’s four conductors and special guest soloist, Anne-Sophie Mutter.
Andris Nelsons is joined by sisters Christina and Michelle Naughton for Mozart’s Concerto in E-flat for two pianos. Mozart probably wrote this elegant and brilliant concerto for himself and his sister Nännerl to play in about 1779; they had been performing together as siblings since early childhood. Maestro Nelsons continues his multi-season exploration of Richard Strauss’s music with both the BSO and the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig. A rarely heard scene from the composer’s legend-based 1901 opera Feuersnot— music not performed by the BSO since 1911—opens the program, followed by the composer’s beautiful and profound symphonic poem Death and Transfiguration.
Acclaimed Georgian violinist Lisa Batiashvili returns to Symphony Hall for performances of Jean Sibelius’s Violin Concerto. A violinist himself, Sibelius employed his distinctive, Finnish folk music-influenced style in this fiery and lyrical concerto, the final version of which was premiered under Richard Strauss’s direction in 1905. Strauss’s own Symphonic Fantasy on Die Frau ohne Schatten (“Woman Without a Shadow”) is a 1946 distillation of his fabulist 1919 opera; the BSO hasn’t played music from the opera since the 1960s under Erich Leinsdorf. The concert opens with the great American composer William Grant Still’s Threnody: In Memoriam Jan Sibelius, composed in 1965. Though from very different traditions, Still and Sibelius were known to admire one another’s music.
Andris Nelsons and the BSO continue their multi-season focus on music of Richard Strauss with his own Symphonic Fantasy on Die Frau ohne Schatten (“Woman Without a Shadow”), a 1946 orchestral distillation of his fabulist 1919 opera. The BSO hasn’t played music from the opera since the 1960s under Erich Leinsdorf. The concert opens with the great American composer William Grant Still’s Threnody: In Memoriam Jan Sibelius, composed in 1965. Though from very different traditions, Still and Sibelius were known to admire one another’s music. Closing this single-concert program is perhaps the BSO’s most famous commissioned work: Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra, music premiered by the BSO under Serge Koussevitzky’s direction in December 1944.
This all-Russian program led by Andris Nelsons opens with a BSO-commissioned piece by Sofia Gubaidulina, premiered by the orchestra under Kurt Masur’s direction in 2003. The work’s uniquely colorful harmonies and instrumental colors create its expressive drama. The title refers to the bright sound of antique cymbals at its conclusion. These performances celebrate Sofia Gubaidulina’s 90th birthday on October 24, 2021.
Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 3 dates from 1936, falling between the Paganini Rhapsody for piano and orchestra and Symphonic Dances. Like those works, the symphony is characterized by scintillating orchestration and Rachmaninoff’s noted gift for long-spun melody and compelling musical narrative.
Thomas Wilkins conducts Coleridge-Taylor, Wooten, and Ellington featuring electric bassist Victor Wooten
BSO Artistic Advisor for Education and Community Engagement Conductor Thomas Wilkins is joined by composer and electric bass virtuoso Victor Wooten making his BSO debut. A multi-Grammy winner consistently ranked among the greatest bassists in the world, Wooten puts his own eclectic chops to the test in his concerto La Lección Tres, which continues the musical-philosophical journey of his book The Music Lesson. Anglo African composer Samuel Coleridge Taylor came to international prominence with his 1898 cantata on Longfellow’s epic poem The Song of Hiawatha. In 1912, Coleridge-Taylor recast this popular work as a ballet score; it was his last completed piece. Duke Ellington’s 1970 ballet The River, commissioned by the American Ballet Theatre for choreographer Alvin Ailey, follows an allegorical river’s changing nature from its source to the sea—i.e., from birth to "the heavenly anticipation of rebirth. The October 29 performance is part of our Casual Fridays series.
Exciting Italian pianist Beatrice Rana plays the towering Piano Concerto No. 1 in her BSO debut in concerts led by Russian conductor Dima Slobodeniouk. One of the most popular and evergreen concertos in the repertoire, Tchaikovsky’s piece never fails to please with its combination of virtuoso fireworks and soaring melody. The concert concludes with Dvořák’s darkly majestic Symphony No. 7, which reveals both his love for his native Bohemia and the influence of his mentor, Johannes Brahms.
Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras (BYSO)
Federico Cortese, conductor
Genevieve Lefevre, narrator
PROKOFIEV Peter and the Wolf
American conductor Roderick Cox, makes his BSO debut leading BSO Principal Clarinet William Hudgins in Mozart’s beloved Clarinet Concerto. One of the composer’s last major works, it was written for his clarinetist friend Anton Stadler, perhaps the greatest master of the instrument of his time. Felix Mendelssohn’s always fresh Symphony No. 3, Scottish, was inspired by a long trip to the British Isles in his early twenties, but it wasn’t until more than a decade later that he finally completed this dramatic but classically balanced symphony.
Adventurous Swedish trumpeter Håkan Hardenberger has collaborated frequently with Andris Nelsons and the BSO in a range of exciting works. This season he plays the American premiere of a BSO co-commissioned work by Jörg Widmann—the second BSO commission from the prominent German composer. Widmann, himself a noted clarinetist, creates imaginatively dramatic works with deep roots in music history.
The first of Mahler’s nine symphonies employs folk-music references and a conventional four-movement form that have their foundations in Haydn’s time. Its expanded scope and instrumentation are evidence of the genre’s 19th-century transformation as well as Mahler’s own stretching of the form.
Andris Nelsons leads an all-Brahms program pairing early and mid-career orchestral works. Concerned with living up to Beethoven’s precedent in the genre, Brahms labored on his First Symphony for twenty years before finally allowing it to see the light of day in 1876. With references to Beethoven, Brahms clearly places himself in the great German symphonic tradition. The warm and idyllic Serenade No. 2, written in 1859, is a five-movement work that omits violins, creating strong contrasts between strings and woodwinds. This lovely piece was dedicated to Brahms’s lifelong friend Clara Schumann.
Andris Nelsons leads a world premiere originally scheduled for spring 2020, the Viennese composer HK Gruber’s Short Stories from the Vienna Woods, a BSO co-commission with the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig. This orchestral score is a suite of music from the composer’s opera Tales from the Vienna Wood, based on the socially critical play by the same name by Ödön von Horváth. The title’s reference to the famous Strauss waltz mirrors the wide- ranging popular and classical variety of Gruber’s music.
Though he would later be the embodiment of the Viennese Classical composer, Wolfgang Mozart was still living in Salzburg when he wrote all five of his violin concertos. Beloved American violinist Hilary Hahn plays Mozart’s Concerto No. 5, from 1775, which in addition to its energy and elegance is notable for its unusual finale, which features the surprising “Turkish” episode that gives the concerto its nickname.
The BSO under Serge Koussevitzky gave the American premiere of Sergei Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5 in 1945. Written in 1944, the symphony looks beyond the turmoil of World War II to celebrate the nobility of the human spirit.
Andris Nelsons conducts Augusta Read Thomas, Beethoven, and Liszt featuring pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet
Music Director Andris Nelsons leads the BSO and a frequent collaborator, the French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, in a passionate and virtuosic Piano Concerto No. 2 by Franz Liszt — who himself was considered the most brilliant performer of the 19th century Romantic era. These concerts open with the American premiere of Augusta Read Thomas' Dance Foldings, which Thomas describes as “like jazz big band with Stravinsky ballets.” Closing the program is Ludwig van Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony, one of the composer’s sunniest and most congenial works.
Hong Kong-born conductor Elim Chan, chief conductor of the Antwerp Symphony Orchestra, makes her BSO debut and acclaimed Russian-German pianist Igor Levit makes his BSO subscription series debut in these concerts. Mr. Levit performs Brahms’s Piano Concerto No. 2, a work of grand scope and widely varying character and requiring great virtuosity. The young Alabama-born composer Brian Raphael Nabors’s orchestral work Pulse aims to suggest, in several contrasting episodes, the unifying energy of many different facets of life on earth. The nickname of Tchaikovsky’s colorful and dynamic Little Russian Symphony refers not to his homeland, but to a part of the Ukraine then known as “Little Russia”; the nickname comes from the Ukrainian folk melodies used in the piece.
Jennifer HIGDON Autumn Music, for wind quintet
Marti EPSTEIN Komorebi, for oboe, clarinet, and violin
Shulamit RAN Lyre of Orpheus, for string sextet
FARRENC Nonet for winds and strings
BARTÓK Contrasts, for clarinet, violin, and piano
Michael GANDOLFI Cantata, for soprano, baritone, and ensemble (world premiere; BSO commission)
DVOŘÁK String Quintet in G, Op. 77
Vivian Choi, piano
Sophia Burgos, soprano
John Brancy, baritone
BSO Artistic Partner Thomas Adès is joined by pianist Kirill Gerstein in reprise performances of Adès’s own Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, a BSO-commissioned work written for Gerstein and premiered at Symphony Hall in 2019. Gerstein and Adès have since performed the concerto worldwide to great acclaim, and the BSO’s recording of it was nominated for a Grammy Award. Gerstein also performs Ravel’s Piano Concerto for the Left Hand, which Ravel completed in 1930 for the pianist Paul Wittgenstein, who lost his right arm due to an injury in World War I. Ravel’s fascination with jazz shows up in the concerto’s syncopated rhythms and energy. Exhibiting stark differences as well as fascinating similarities, both Ravel’s La Valse and Berg’s Three Pieces for Orchestra—written a few years apart during and after World War I—seem to be modern commentaries, both admiring and critical, of the music and society of a bygone 19th century Europe.
Swiss-born conductor Philippe Jordan, music director of the Vienna State Opera, makes his BSO debut in this all-Russian program alongside a BSO audience favorite, Israeli-American pianist Yefim Bronfman. Bronfman is soloist in one of the most beloved and challenging concertos in the repertoire, Rachmaninoff’s sparkling and lush Piano Concerto No. 3. Opening and closing the program is colorful music from the stage. The brilliantly orchestrated overture to Borodin’s incomplete opera Prince Igor (1887) evokes the dramatic sweep of the Russian legend and history that are the opera’s foundation. One of Prokofiev’s most recognizable and popular scores, the Shakespearean ballet Romeo and Juliet features character pieces from the delightful to the threatening, here distilled into an orchestral suite.
The prominent American-born Swedish conductor Herbert Blomstedt, a frequent and welcome guest of the BSO, is joined by German pianist Martin Helmchen for one of Mozart’s most joyous concertos, No. 17 in G. One of few Mozart piano concertos he probably didn’t write for himself to play, No. 17 may have been written for and premiered by his student Barbara Ployer in June 1784. Bruckner wrote his warm, majestic Fourth Symphony in 1874, but like many of his works the composer subjected it to extensive revision. The 1880 version of the score premiered by Hans Richter in Vienna in 1881 was one of the greatest success of Bruckner’s life.
HINDEMITH Octet for winds and strings
Yehudi WYNER Concord 7, for flute, oboe, clarinet, violin, viola, cello, and piano
MOZART String Quintet in D, K.593
Andris Nelsons conducts Arvo Pärt, Kaija Saariaho, Shostakovich and Stravinsky featuring violinist Baiba Skride and Anu Komsi, soprano
BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons is joined by his compatriot, violinist Baiba Skride, for Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No. 1, which was written in the late 1940s but only premiered in 1955, after Stalin’s death helped relax the constraints on artistic expression in the USSR. The concerto contains a version of the composer’s musical “signature,” suggesting that was a work of powerful personal importance. It was composed for and dedicated to David Oistrakh. Opening the program is the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt’s poignant homage to Shostakovich’s great friend, the English composer Benjamin Britten.
Finnish soprano Anu Komsi makes her BSO debut in the world premiere of Kaija Saariaho’s own orchestrations of her song cycle on poems of the great 20th century Finnish poet Pentti Saarikoski. Saariaho wrote the original piano and voice versions of these songs for Anu Komsi. The Suite from Stravinsky’s 1909 ballet score The Firebird closes the program. The composer’s astonishingly imaginative orchestration perfectly captured the magical atmosphere of this Russian legend, and the Ballets Russes premiere in Paris swept the composer to worldwide fame.
The February 25 performance is part of our Casual Fridays series. Please note that the Casual Friday performance does not include Kaija Saariaho's Saarikoski Songs.
Music Director Andris Nelsons is joined by one of his frequent collaborators, violinist Leonidas Kavakos, for the American premiere of celebrated Korean-German composer Unsuk Chin’s Violin Concerto No. 2, Scherben der Stille (“Shards of Silence”). Co-commissioned for Mr. Kavakos by the BSO, Gewandhaus Orchester Leipzig, and the London Symphony Orchestra, the concerto receives its U.S. premiere in March 2022 at Symphony Hall. Chin won the prestigious Grawemeyer Award in 2004 for her first violin concerto. A staple of the BSO’s repertoire for generations, Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique virtually defined the emotional intensity of musical Romanticism while also vastly expanding orchestral virtuosity. Opening the program is the American composer Charles Ives’s mysterious, innovative tone poem The Unanswered Question (1908), which features a striking solo trumpet part.
Music Director Andris Nelsons leads two very different works that we both innovative and experimental for their time. A staple of the BSO’s repertoire for generations, Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique virtually defined the emotional intensity of musical Romanticism while also vastly expanding orchestral virtuosity. Its five movements describe an artist’s emotional turmoil, ranging from blissful to unhinged, as he daydreams about his lover. Much more abstract and metaphysical is the American composer Charles Ives’s mysterious and questing tone poem The Unanswered Question (1908), which features a striking solo trumpet part against ensembles of strings and winds.
After the BSO’s performance, enjoy the special program Sing to the Moon by the Tanglewood Festival Chorus. This half hour of music includes choral works by Elgar, Augusta Read Thomas, Brahms, Laura Mvula, and more.
Andris Nelsons and the BSO continue the orchestra’s tradition of presenting great operatic works in concert with Alban Berg’s modernist masterpiece Wozzeck, which follows recent performances of early 20th-century operas by Richard Strauss and Puccini as well as complete acts from Wagner’s music dramas. First performed in 1925 and based on Georg Büchner’s mid-19th century play, Wozzeck uses a kaleidoscopic variety of musical means to relate the story a lowly soldier whose anxious, introspective humanity conflicts tragically with the circumstances of his life. The title role is sung by an acknowledged champion of the role, Danish baritone Bo Skovhus. The outstanding cast also includes soprano Christine Goerke as Marie.
Concert performance, sung in German with English supertitles
Wozzeck will be performed without intermission; there will be brief pauses after Acts I and II.
2022 marks the 60th anniversary of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, which was commissioned to mark the consecration of the rebuilt Coventry Cathedral, destroyed during a bombing raid in World War II. Britten’s piece takes a firm pacifist stance, setting World War I-era poetry by Wilfred Owen—sung by the two male soloists—interleaved with his setting of the traditional Latin mass for the dead. The Boston Symphony Orchestra gave the American premiere of this great work at Tanglewood in 1963 under Erich Leinsdorf. As was conceived for the work’s first performances, the soloists in this performance represent the warring powers of Russia, England, and Germany. British-Italian conductor Antonio Pappano conducts this concert also featuring the Tanglewood Festival Chorus.
In the spirit of peace and justice in our world, the Boston Symphony Orchestra dedicates this week's performances of Benjamin Britten's War Requiem to the people of Ukraine and all those resisting the invasion of their sovereign country. A performance of the Ukrainian National Anthem by the BSO and Tanglewood Festival Chorus, led by Sir Antonio Pappano, will open Thursday's concert.
Having made her Symphony Hall debut in the BSO’s streamed concerts of 2020–21, Assistant Conductor Anna Rakitina conducts her first live-audience Symphony Hall program featuring the BSO debut of French pianist Alexandre Kantorow. The grand prix winner in the 2019 Tchaikovsky Competition performs Tchaikovsky’s rarely heard Piano Concerto No. 2, an attractive work long overshadowed by the composer’s immensely popular Concerto No. 1. Tennessee-born composer Ellen Reid won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in Music for her opera p r i s m. Her 2019 orchestral score When the World as You’ve Known it Doesn’t Exist revels in energy and pure orchestral sound; the instrumental ensemble is enhanced by the earthy sounds of three soprano voices. Sibelius’ one-movement Symphony No. 7, one of his last completed works, was an entirely personal reinvention of the genre that had occupied him for almost forty years and which was closely tied to the landscape and culture of Finland.
GLINKA Trio pathétique in D minor for clarinet, bassoon, and piano
Sofia GUBAIDULINA Sonata for double bass and piano
Elena LANGER Reflections on Water, for ensemble
SHOSTAKOVICH Piano Quintet in G minor, Op. 57
Inon Barnatan, piano
For this spring’s "What I Hear" event, distinguished American composer Bernard Rands curates a program of chamber music in connection with the BSO's world premiere performance of his Symphonic Fantasy later that evening. New England Conservatory musicians perform his works Music for Shoko: Aubade for English horn and string quartet, Four Impromptus for solo piano, plus Yehudi Wyner’s Into the Evening Air for wind quintet. BSO Assistant Artistic Administrator Eric Valliere moderates a conversation with the composer.
Musical direction: Stephen Drury
Bernard RANDS Four Impromptus
Ariel Mo, piano
Jie Zhou, piano
Evren Ozel, piano
Motti Fang-Bentov, piano
Bernard RANDS Music for Shoko: Aubade
Kip Zimmerman, English horn
Emma Carleton and Grant Houston, violins
Julian Seney, viola
Yi-Mei Templeman, cello
Yehudi WYNER Into the Evening Air
Erika Rohrberg, flute
Sam Rockwood, oboe
Tyler J. Bourque, clarinet
Dan McCarty, bassoon
Karlee Kamminga, horn
Superstar violinist Joshua Bell joins conductor Alan Gilbert for Beethoven’s expansive Violin Concerto, one of the most popular violin concertos of all time. Composed almost simultaneously with his opera Leonore, the concerto features some of the composer’s warmest and most lyrical music. Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Bernard Rands’s music has been championed by the BSO over the course of his career; the orchestra most recently premiered his Concerto for Piano with soloist Jonathan Biss in 2014. The premiere of his Symphonic Fantasy was originally scheduled for summer 2020. Completing the program is Claude Debussy’s picturesque, symphony-like masterpiece La Mer, in which the composer paints a musical picture of the sea’s many moods and colors. The BSO gave the American premiere of La Mer in 1907.
Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks
Symphonic Fantasy on Die Frau ohne Schatten
The BSO’s Family Concert Series provides engaging, age appropriate, educational orchestral concert experiences especially for children ages 3–8 and their families. BSO Family Concerts are designed to build connections to the orchestra, orchestral music, the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras, and Symphony Hall.
Young People’s String Orchestra and members of the Intensive Community Program
Marta Żurad, conductor
Matt Roberts, magician
The second of the all-Strauss programs includes the symphonic poem Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks, his Symphonia domestica, and his own Symphonic Fantasy on Die Frau ohne Schatten (“Woman Without a Shadow”), a 1946 distillation of his fabulist 1919 opera.
Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks is only performed on April 23 & 26 and is not part of Casual Friday.
The BSO’s own principal cello Blaise Déjardin makes his solo concerto debut with the orchestra in these concerts performing the astonishingly gifted French composer Camille Saint-Saëns’ 1873 Cello Concerto No. 1. In one movement, this compact concerto moves from exhilarating energy to great charm and finally to impassioned, virtuosic lyricism.
The orchestral interludes from his 1924 opera Intermezzo are self-contained miniature tone poems of great dramatic effectiveness. The gorgeous “Dreaming by the Fireside” depicts a woman’s yearning for her husband, who is a musician on tour—part of the autobiographical plot of the opera. Strauss’s absolute mastery of the orchestra is put to very different use in the tone poem An Alpine Symphony, which musically illustrates nature in all its glory via the climb and descent of a mountain in the Alps.
So Now What: A Musical Look at Anticipation, Expectation, and a New Certainty Toward the Fulfillment of Our Promise
The BSO’s Family Concert Series provides engaging, age appropriate, educational orchestral concert experiences especially for children ages 3–8 and their families. BSO Family Concerts are designed to build connections to the orchestra, orchestral music, the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras, and Symphony Hall. The BSO offers three Family Concert programs per year, one of which is performed by the BSO and conducted by Germeshausen Youth and Family Concerts Conductor Thomas Wilkins, the other two of which are performed by the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras (BYSO) as part of a larger organizational partnership.
The 10:00 concert is a sensory-friendly performance, designed for all families with children or adults diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder or sensory sensitivities. This is a full version of the Family Concert, with a flexible, non-judgmental environment. Modifications include relaxed house rules, reduced volume and lighting levels, extra space for movement, available noise-reduction headphones, a designated quiet room and support spaces, modified food concessions, and credentialed autism therapist volunteers on site.